As the world observes World TB Day Monday, a shocking research reveals that despite improved medication and government as well as aid agencies’ efforts, the number of children suffering from tuberculosis (TB) annually has doubled since 2011.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston have estimated that around one million children suffer from TB annually- twice the number previously thought to have tuberculosis and three times the number that are diagnosed every year, the researchers claimed.
The researchers also estimated that around 32,000 children suffer from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) annually.
“Despite children comprising approximately one quarter of the world’s population, there have been no previous estimates of how many suffer from MDR-TB disease,” explained Ted Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at BWH.
“Our estimate of the total number of new cases of childhood TB is twice than estimated by the WHO in 2011 and three times the number of child TB cases notified globally each year,” said Cohen, who is also an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health.
According to co-author Mercedes Becerra, an associate professor at HMS, “TB in a child is recognised as a sentinel event. It tells us about ongoing transmission and missed opportunities for prevention.”
In order to obtain these estimates, the researchers used several sources of publicly available data and devised a new method to correct for the chronic under-diagnosis that occurs in children, using conventional TB tests which were designed for and work best on adults.
The researchers used two models to estimate both the regional and global annual incidence of MDR-TB in children.
Their findings indicate that around 1,000,000 children developed TB disease in 2010 and of those, 32,000 had MDR-TB.
These findings, published in the prestigious journal The Lancet, underscore the urgent need for expanded investment in the global response to TB and MDR-TB in children.